America’s most recent Formula One World Champion, Mario Andretti, laughed when I asked him if Lotus asked him to fill in for the injured Kimi Raikkonen.
As for the actual replacement for Raikkonen – Finnish countryman Heikki Kovalainen – Andretti couldn’t help but praise the veteran who hadn’t even sat in the chassis until Thursday.
“Heikki’s been very comfortable there from the word go,” said the Circuit of the Americas ambassador and racing legend. “For him to do so well part-time is an incredible effort.”
Kovalainen ended fifth on Friday – fitting right in with the team – and made Q3 this afternoon to start P8. Teammate Romain Grosjean unleashed the E21’s full potential with a run to third in qualifying, continuing his excellent run of form in the second half of the season.
Andretti also opined on two of F1’s most iconic teams, each of whom has struggled at times this season. He said he was “surprised” by Ferrari’s relative lack of pace – Fernando Alonso struggled to sixth while Felipe Massa failed to advance out of Q2, in 15th.
As for McLaren, which made Q3 with Sergio Perez, Andretti said they’ve punched above their weight this weekend as they hold onto fifth place in the Constructor’s Championship.
Takuma Sato isn’t the only major Japanese athlete to take home top honors at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year. Countryman Yoshihide Muroya joined him in that on Sunday after winning Red Bull Air Race at IMS, and the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in the process.
Fittingly, the 101st Indianapolis 500 champion was there on site to join him in the celebration.
Muroya flew with a track-record run in the final and erased the four-point deficit to points leader Martin Sonka. The record run came after a disappointing qualifying effort of 11th in the 14-pilot field in the Master Class.
A day after the win, Muroya joined Sato in heading to Sato’s new Verizon IndyCar Series team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s, Indianapolis-based shop.
A few social posts from Muroya’s victory and the subsequent celebration are below.
Muroya wasn’t alone among big winners at the Speedway. In the Challenger Class, Melanie Astles of France became the first woman to win a major race at IMS, and is the first female winner in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.
Nine women have competed in the Indianapolis 500 (Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz, Katherine Legge) and Mann is the first woman to have been on the pole position at IMS, having done so for the Freedom 100 in 2010 in Indy Lights.